The Baroque style in art that flourished in the seventeenth century is characterized by “intense emotions, monumental decors, and even a kind of artistic sensationalism (Hunt, Martin and Rosenwein 473).” It is a movement that was heavily embellished and very complex, primarily because it wanted to evoke a strong sense of emotion from the viewer. The artists who subscribed to this particular movement “embraced dynamism, theatricality, and elaborate ornamentation, all used to spectacular effect, often on a grandiose scale (Kleiner 649).” The term itself is believed to have come from the Portuguese word barroco, which referred to an irregularly shaped pearl. It somewhat fitting, as baroque sculptures, particularly, have many complex textures as part of their ornamentation. A prime example of the baroque style in sculpture is the work of Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Ávila. The sculpture is distinctly baroque, first in terms of its form. Looking at the sculpture, it is easy to see how diverse the visual textures are in Bernini’s work. The large, thick folds of the clothing of St. Teresa contrasts with the lighter, thinner texture of the clothing of the angel piercing her with an arrow. These textures are also clearly discernible and different from the smoky texture of the cloud below, the smooth, porcelain-like skin of both St. Teresa and the angel, and the ordered rays representing God behind the primary figures. This diversity in textures is a manifestation of the baroque style’s obsession with ornamentation, as the complexity it creates is almost overwhelming to the viewer. Another aspect of Bernini’s work that exemplifies the baroque is its theatrical presentation of emotion. The choice of the subject matter is already lends itself to such theatricality, since the sculpture is depicting the St. Teresa in one of her trances after her conversion to Catholicism after the death of her father, which she describes as being caused by...
Cited: Hunt, Lynn, et al. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. 3rd Edition. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin 's, 2009.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner 's Art Through the Ages. 13th Edition. New York: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.
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